Text, photo, and artwork: Anna Karlsson
A while ago it became known to USHiRi Magazine that Flax, the vegan café and farmstand at Sölvesborgsgatan near Folkets Park in the Möllevången (Möllan) area, has carrot kimchi on their menu. CARROT kimchi! This had to be investigated, we thought.
Below is a report of our visit.
USHiRi Magazine (in the form of Anna): Hi, I’m here from Ushiri Magazine. There is supposed to be some pre-ordered kimchi for me, to review for the magazine actually, I believe there was a guy here earlier today?
Flax (unnamed waitress): Oh, that’s right., yeah… Then you could just speak to Buddha here (nods at the guy behind her).
Flax (Buddha Browett, owner and founder of Flax): Yeah, true, there was a guy here earlier today who ordered kimchi and an apple cider for later. Right, ok, let’s see… (turns to the refrigerator), we sell kimchi in jars, do you want to eat straight out of the jar, or would you like a plate with some bread and dressing to go with it?
Anna: Um…, aha, yeah, well, in that case, I’d like a plate, please.
Buddha reaches for a ceramic bowl and fills it up with fresh-made kimchi, bread, and some whitish, creamy dressing. He also takes one of his see-through glass jars with orange, red, green, and yellow kimchi inside and places it on the counter, so that I can take it with me when I go home.
Buddha: There you go. Hope you’ll like it!
From farming to cooking and serving
Close to the window, I find a small café table with a free seat on a wooden sofa. I release myself from my outer jacket and scarf and pour up the (non-alcoholic) apple cider in my glass. Then I place the bottle and the glass in good relation to the kimchi bowl for a short Kodak moment.
A handful of other customers have made their way into the small café. At the end of the bar is a guy reading a book while drinking his coffee. Close to him is another guy pulling some jokes in English, and then there is a girl waiting for her take-out with a yoga math convoluted in a blue roll on the floor. Another female guest comes through the door carrying a mug and an empty plate, probably having had a fika in the outdoor sitting area. There is also a group of friends who come in to chat with Buddha.
Suddenly I realize that I’ve been here before, in this very room. A friend of mine used to run a massage therapy studio at this location, situated at 10, Sölvesborgsgatan, near the Möllevången, Folkets Park, S:t Knuts, and Sorgenfri neighborhoods, south of downtown Malmö.
Where there now seems to be some sort of a storage area, in a room on top of a stair to the left, I would enter the therapy room to lay down and have my back and shoulders’ muscles squeezed by this strong, dedicated, and kind-hearted girl who always seemed to know exactly where to push and stroke to release the tensions and pain I sometimes suffered from.
That’s almost fifteen years ago, though. After she left sometime around 2010 the facility has housed a few other businesses, and two years ago, at the time of midsummer 2019, chef and farmer Buddha Browett bought an espresso machine and opened up Flax.
An Australian in Malmö
Flax (or “common flax” or “linseed”) is a well-known flowering plant, commonly used for linseed oil as well as linen textiles for bed sheets and table cloths. It’s a name that goes well along with the natural, vegan, and also aesthetically thought-through profile of this café.
Buddha Browett had moved to Sweden from his native Sydney, via Barcelona, some years earlier (“because of the weather, haha, no actually I fell in love with a Swedish woman, that I’m no longer together with though).
Step by step he went from selling vegetables at “Bondens Marknad” (“The Farmer’s Market”) at Drottningtorget, to subsequently co-found “REKO-ring Malmö”, a successful selling service where small local farmers can put up crops on Facebook for pre-ordering and weekly distribution straight to customers.
While also having started up and run Sweden’s largest commercial urban farm “Los Perros” (today 2800 m2 big), he realized that one piece was missing though: a restaurant or café outlet for his harvest.
One day in 2019 he found the facility at Sölvesborgsgatan, and that was it.
Today he’s doing farming between Sunday and Wednesday and runs the café and farm stand from Thursday to Saturday.
Uses everything he grows
Having this set-up, he can use basically everything he grows. He no longer needs to find himself getting up at four o’clock in the morning – harvest, pack, and driving to Bondens Marknad at Drottningtorget, trying to sell as much as possible – before ending the day with perhaps some crops still left. Sometimes trying then to sell the surplus to nearby restaurants, sometimes being lucky, sometimes maybe not.
Delivers to local quality restaurants like Julie, Mineral, Qué, and Lyran are still part of the business, but a lot of his harvest is now also used at Flax. Moreover, customers may buy fresh pumpkins, onions of different sorts, potatoes, apples, zucchini, and more, at a small farm stand next to the entrance.
Buddha Browett recounts all of this after I’ve had my little kimchi and bread moment (which really is quite a joy! The kimchi has a nice combination of a lot of different flavors, it has a lagom heat from the chili and is overall very refreshing.)
Buddha: The menu at Flax is made up of things I like. A lot of it actually has carrots in it, like the kimchi but also a lot of other dishes, because carrot is such a useful vegetable that goes along with a lot.
Anna: Ah, that is very pleasant news for CARROTTRiBE members and USHiRi Magazine readers!
Buddha: If you look at the menu I think there are carrots in all the dishes except the one at the top (he points to a blackboard behind the counter, where different dishes and courses are written in white chalk letters. And yes, I do indeed find for instance one soup, one stew, and one grilled sandwich that all in some way contain carrots.)
Anna: If comparing sauerkraut and kimchi (both fermented vegetables; editor’s note), why kimchi?
Buddha: Oh, well, for me that’s just because of the variations possibilities with kimchi. I like to be able to put in like ginger and chili and that kind of stuff.
A popular dish
Kimchi can be used with almost everything and is considered a staple in the Korean kitchen.
I had kimchi myself for the first time back in 2002 when it was served as a side dish to a bowl of chicken dumplings at “Kafé Japan”, in central Gothenburg. Back then kimchi wasn’t that popular or common as it is today in the Swedish food flora, I think. While sushi or thai food at the time had become almost as popular as pizza, kimchi was more like “oh, this is… interesting…. tastes good though!”
Korean culture and lifestyle have made quite an impact on parts of the Western world since then though (with The Squid game, K-Beauty, K-Pop, and Gangnam style, for instance), but exactly how popular kimchi is I’m not quite sure of (since food writing isn’t actually my main pursuit.) But Buddha Browett might know, I figure out, so I decide to ask of his opinion.
Buddha: Kimchi is very popular I think, and it’s getting even more popular all the time now. Our customers really like it!
After my visit to Flax, I draw this picture, inspired by the vibe and features of the place. Incorporated in the drawing is the Korean spelling (김치) of kimchi.
Do you wanna try yourself?
If you want to buy your own kimchi or have it with for example a grilled cheese sandwich, you’ll find Flax on Sölvesborgsgatan 10 near Folkets park in Malmö. Opening hours and other information can be found at Flax’s online site.